Code-switching among chiShona-English bilinguals in courtroom discourse: Rape cases in Zimbabwe

  • Victor Mugari
  • Laston Mukaro
  • Lovemore Mutonga
  • Nhamo W. Samasuwo
  • Maxwell Kadenge


As has become the norm in bilingual situations, code-switching in both formal and informal contexts has increased recognition as a verbal mode of communication. This article presents a parsimonious exegesis of the patterns and functions of code-switching in the courtroom discourse of chiShona-English bilinguals. Data were obtained from court transcripts and observations of interlocutors during courtroom sessions. The data were analysed using content analysis of transcripts, noting the patterns and circumstances leading to each switch. Our findings show that the motivations for code-switching during a trial are inter alia to negotiate, organise, circumvent, enrich and to enhance speech. The argument we proffer here supports the view that language reflects social structure as indicated by the reasons why some communities made some switches along gender lines and professional status, for instance. As there are few descriptive and theoretical studies on code-switching involving African (indigenous) languages of Zimbabwe, this research recommends more studies on this subject.


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2305-1159
print ISSN: 0257-2117